Archive for the ‘Cataloguing’ Category

  • Installing ICA AtoM on a Raspberry Pi

    Date: 2012.07.18 | Category: Cataloguing, ICA-AtoM, Open Source | Response: 1

    The Raspberry Pi is the latest in ‘must have’ gadgetry so after receiving my £25 computer the size of a credit card, I set about finding out what it could do.

    Followers of the blog will know that I posted a video tutorial on how to install the open source archival cataloguing software ICA AtoM in Windows, so I wondered if I could do the same thing under Linux on the Raspberry Pi. Linux is an open source operating system that is free to install and can be run on any desktop computer, indeed I run it on my home PC alongside a standard Windows 7 installation. Unlike Windows, which utilises a graphical interfaces for installing software and other administrator level operations, Linux encourages you to use text based ‘commands’ to get things done.

    Whereas the instructions for installing ICA AtoM under Windows were fairly straightforward, there are a few more things to configure and install in a Linux environment, so I’ve put together what I hope is a comprehensive walkthrough of installing it on a shiny new Raspberry Pi.

    While it’s not the fastest thing ever, I can certainly see potential in a £25 server the size of credit card appealing to small repositories looking for a cheap and easy way of testing and tinkering with an open source cataloguing solution.

    You will need;
    A Raspberry Pi computer
    An SD card with ‘Debian Squeeze’ (operating system) installed on it
    A sense of adventure…

    NOTE – The instructions below are specific to Debian Squeeze, although I’ve noticed that there is a new recommended image (Raspbian Wheezy) available direct from the official Raspberry Pi website. I will try to replicate these instructions using the new image asap and update if necessary. In theory though, the instructions below should also work with Raspbian Wheezy.

    Installation Instructions

    1. Boot up your Raspberry Pi and Login

      login: pi

      password: raspberry

    2. Install the webserver elements required to run ICA AtoM – apache, php and mysql. do this by typing the following into the command prompt;

      sudo apt-get install apache2 php5 mysql-server php5-mysql

    3. The packages will then begin downloading and installing.
    4. You will be prompted to install packages and asked to confirm installation by typing y for ‘Yes’.
    5. Once mysql has been installed you will be prompted to provide to set the ‘password for sql root user’. Make a note of the password you use as you will need it when setting up ICA AtoM.
    6. Wait patiently for everything to finish installing and return you to a blinking cursor in the command prompt.

      NOTE – At the end of the installation, apache may throw up an error ‘bad group name www-data’. To fix this, create the group in the command line by typing

      sudo addgroup www-data

    7. Reboot the Pi by typing

      sudo reboot

    8. Once the Pi has rebooted and you have logged in again, navigate to the folder where apache looks for web files by typing

      cd /var/www

    9. Once you are in the folder (prompt changes to pi@raspberrypi:/var/www$) download the zip file for installing ICA AtoM by typing;

      sudo wget

    10. Wait for the file to download and then unpack (unzip) the archive by typing:

      sudo tar -zxpvf icaatom-1.2.1.tgz

    11. ICA AtoM will now install and a vast amount of text will scroll past you on the screen. Wait until you are returned to a blinking cursor.
    12. Once ICA AtoM is installed, change the permissions on the folder to enable changes to be made and files to be created. Do this by typing:

      sudo chmod -R 777 icaatom-1.2.1

    13. Now you’re ready to create the sql database that will contain all the data entered into ICA AtoM. To do this, type:

      sudo myqsl -p (enter the root password you created earlier)

    14. At the mysql> prompt type:

      create database [database name]; where [database name] is your chosen database name

    15. You are now ready to move to another computer to finish setting up your ICA AtoM installation. Before doing this, you’ll need to find out the IP address (web address) of the Raspberry Pi. Do this by typing:

      ifconfig and making a note of the number after inetaddr that should start in either 192.168 or 10.1

    16. Move to another computer, open the browser and navigate to:

      [IP address of Pi]/icaatom-1.2.1

      where [IP address of Pi] is the address you found in step 15.

    17. You will now see the installer working through system checks. Once it has reached 100% click ‘Continue’.
    18. Enter the root password you set up in step 5 and leave the rest of the fields as default.
    19. Click continue and wait.

      NOTE – I waited around 30 minutes before deciding the installation had crashed and rebooted the Pi by pulling the power lead. Ideally if you have this problem, you should return to the Pi and type sudo reboot rather than pulling the power, but I had ‘low memory’ problems so couldn’t reboot cleanly.

    20. Wait for the Pi to boot up again and then return to the other computer and refresh the browser. This should move the page onto the next screen where you choose a name for your site and input username and password details.
    21. This completes the installation and you can then click on the link to ‘visit your new site’.

    Admittedly, it isn’t the quickest installation of ICA AtoM ever, but it works! I’d welcome any additions to this walkthrough or suggestions on how to speed it up a bit, but I hope this outline is of use.

    And there you have it…a fully fledged archival cataloguing system running on a £25 computer :-).

  • Archivist or Programmer?

    Date: 2012.03.24 | Category: Access, Archives, Cataloguing, Digital Humanities, Digital Preservation, Programming | Response: 0

    Is there such a thing as a ‘typical Archivist’?

    This question was posed by a friend on the Archives NRA Mailing List recently and prompted a series and fairly animated responses, mostly along the lines of ‘there’s no such thing as a typical archivist’. It was suggested that such a phrase may even be detrimental to the image of Archivists and suggest that the profession is more uniform than the reality. I’d certainly agree that it would prove problematic to define the ‘typical Archivist’ beyond saying that we list, make available to the public and preserve material of historical significance or otherwise deemed worthy of long term preservation.

    I suspect however, that the way in which the Archivist goes about this role has changed significantly, not least in the methods used to make material available. The development of the computer (originally used to manage payroll in Lyon’s Tea Shops) and software specifically for the cataloguing of archive material, has fundamentally changed the way people create, disseminate and access information. Without an ability to embrace the face paced development of technology, there was a significant danger of repositories being left behind in terms of how they promote or provide access to their collections. Initatives for putting catalogue records online such as The National Archives’ Access to Archives and AiM25 made significant early inroads into tackling the problem.

    An awareness of these types of initiatives and an understanding of how they work are becoming increasingly vital in the work of a ‘typical’ Archivist. But just how far does a 21st Century information professional have to take this understanding? Historians have made some attempt to tackle this issue following the emergence of the field of digital humanities and practices such as the use of XML markup to display material online. There is even an online book available – ‘The Programming Historian’ – that provides an introduction to programming and the variety of uses that a little but of Javascript can be put to. To me, this is a massive step in the right direction, and one that I think at least some Archivists should be embracing. There has been some discussion on Twitter recently about what sort of demand there might be amongst Archivists for learning programming skills, and it would seem that there are plenty of us out there willing to have a go.

    As someone who is confident is using computers and who has a programmer for a boyfriend, I am confident that there are more effective ways of doing things with a computer than those that are currently practiced by most Archivists. A few pointers on how to use macros in Excel and how to program a query in Access could make the world of difference to your average Archivist. Why spend half a day manually searching through various spreadsheets for data when you can run a report from a query in 30 seconds? I appreciate that this may be specific to my work environment, and/or that there are other contributing factors that restrict the use of technology within an organisation, but you get the idea!

    The original blog post requesting input from any technically minded Archivists who want to learn to program, posted by Alexandra Eveleigh, is here. Have a read and please do comment on why you would want to learn and what you think it could help with in your day to day work.

    I’m certain that there are a whole host of different things that programming (and other general IT knowledge) can do to enhance to work of Archivists, and I hope that something comes from the invite to learn together with a group of like minded professionals.

    So, does an Archivist ned to retrain as a programmer? I don’t think so, although a little bit of knowledge could go a long way to improving the final output of Archivists in terms of web presence, online resources and use of material. Initatives such as Code Academy will go some way to bridging the gap that exists at the moment, provided people have the time to devote to it. Where this is not possible, meeting with a group of like minded people in a relaxed setting or working through basic tutorials delivered online might well be the solution we are looking for.

    To return to my initial point, I am not sure there is such a thing as ‘a typical Archivist’ but I do think that programming/computer science based skills need to become increasingly ‘typical’ in newly qualified Archivists if we are going to keep pace with emerging and changing technologies.

    I for one hope to be blogging a bit more on this sort of thing and perhaps providing information on a few things that I’ve found useful, but in the meantime I’m getting my head down on Code Academy and reading ‘The Programming Historian’.

  • ICA AtoM Cataloguing Software

    Date: 2012.01.30 | Category: Access, Cataloguing, ICA-AtoM, Open Source | Response: 3

    ICA AtoM is an example of archival cataloguing software, used to provide readers with access to archival materials. Cataloguing software is widely used in the information and heritage sectors to provide access to collections, but ICA AtoM is something a little different, that is is open source, meaning, most importantly to organisations, it’s FREE.

    The term ‘free’ when discussing open source software, refers to both the concept of ‘free as in free beer’ and ‘free as in free to edit, update and improve’. Any repository looking for a fully functional, ISAD (G) compliant system need look no further, provided you have a little confidence and willingness to experiment.

    I think the key thing when learning anything new, is to just jump right in and give things a go. In the spirit of encouraging people to try things out, I’ve put together a video stepping through the installation and configuration of ICA AtoM for people to have a look at. Notice the total time of the video, 9 and a half minutes. This is REAL TIME  i.e. it takes less that 10 minutes to get ICA AtoM up and running on a PC. Granted, it’s a bit more complicated if you were installing it on a large scale, but the principle is the same.

    I should note that the process is a little slower than it would otherwise be as I was running it on a virtual machine. The video is best viewed in full screen.

    The basic steps for installation shown in this video are;

    1. Download and install WAMP (Windows Apache MySQL and PHP – the software that allows the computer to act as a webserver)
    2. Download the ICA-AtoM software from
    3. Install ICA-AtoM by unzipping the file and copying the contents to the ‘C:/wamp/www’ folder (or the ‘www’ folder wherever WAMP was installed)
    4. Type ‘localhost’ in the browser to navigate to where ICA AtoM is installed
    5. Follow the prompts (using WAMP to create a new database when you notice the error message)
    6. Configure a name and login details for your site and Voila.

    This video will step you through setting up the software on a standalone computer for tinkering purposes. The process will be different for a full blown installation on corporate servers (but not that different!).

    Go on, have a go!


    Louise Pichel



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